by Robert Leeper
The group makes oblique references to contemporary atrocities in Syria, Russia, Lebanon and the #yesallwomen campaign right here at home, but nothing explicit. Šilec calls the performance a “choregie,” an amalgam of vocalization and theater that together create a contrapuntal work encompassing multiple meanings and interpretations. The music - which includes a Syrian Orthodox hymn, Sarah Hopkins’s “Past Life Melodies,” and works by Slovenian composer Lojze Lebic and American Jacob Cooper, among others - is woven through the design, direction, and choreography, creating a unified whole.
Despite the overall distressing nature of the work, there are poignant moments that emerge before being enveloped again. During the achingly beautiful "Rejoice, O Virgin" from Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil (a.k.a. Vespers), the dark stage is lit only by firefly-like flashlights that are tossed in arcs from one girl to the next before rhythmic, militant marches take over and they are again thrust into the relentless rhythm.
The mere act of singing while racing about the stage is exhausting just to think about, but the young singers pulled it off here in spectacular fashion. Though the separation between pieces was deliberately blurred, the singing reflected a highly disciplined style and impressive grasp of a variety of techniques, shifting effortlessly without ever losing momentum. Ms. Šilec said that the work was geared "towards contemplation over a direct call to action," and the audience was certainly left with a lot to consider after this performance.
Carmina Slovenica is certainly not content to leave the audience to their dispassionate observation. They ask the audience their examine their world—at one point literally bringing mirrors on stage to reflect the audience back on themselves. The questions were implicit: Are we really outside their world? Are we part of the problem, or the solution?